Leaders hone strategies to lure companies
By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
Published July 12, 2006
- John Adams, the plain-talking head of Enterprise Florida, is the
chief state official charged with recruiting new business to Florida.
But even Adams noted a scenario to test the limits of his
ability: A high-tech company hot for Florida needs 600 workers, and
those employees will need housing in three months.
Faced with such a request, Adams described his likely reaction: "Uh oh."
"Work force is a wild card," Adams told about 100 businesses and
government leaders Tuesday at a session in St. Petersburg to update the
state's strategic economic development plan.
Workers. Housing. Transportation. All were cited as
deficiencies hindering the Tampa Bay area's ascension to the upper
ranks of corporate destinations.
One of the region's chief appeals relative to the rest of
the country, low-cost housing, has vanished with median prices well
above $200,000. Combined with comparatively low wages of the Tampa Bay
areas - median income is 17 percent below Atlanta's - housing can be a
"I'm seeing job seekers moving out of the area because of costs," said panelist Pam Kauten, owner of job board Florida CareerLINK.
Joe Smith of the construction firm Walbridge Aldinger hammered the
region's lack of mass transit to ease growing gridlock on the highways.
Smith proposes creating an eight-county regional
transportation authority, a body that could reap hundreds of millions
of dollars of federal money toward building commuter rail and other
"Transportation is at the core of solutions to everything that ails," he said.
Proponents of work force training criticized an educational system
geared more to helping kids find themselves in college than to
producing competent workers during high school.
Gary Norris, superintendent of Sarasota County schools,
proposed narrowing the curriculum but teaching the remaining courses in
"You want a million courses. The research shows it's not helping our kids," Norris said.
The we've-got-to-do-better tone of the four-hour session stuck in the
craw of Larry Richey, an executive with the Cushman & Wakefield
real estate firm.
He must have been living in a different place the past
five years, Richey said, because he views the area as a booming
"The Tampa Bay region has been pretty much the envy of
the country," Richey said. "I don't want people to walk out of here
thinking we're in trouble."
But Bob Abberger, an executive with the Trammell Crow
construction company in Tampa, equated Tuesday's session to raising
kids: If you give a child nothing but praise, he'll never improve.
"We need to act like a disadvantaged community," said
Abberger, who also chairs the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce's
development group, the Committee of 100. "We need to be hungry."
Enterprise Florida, led by Adams, is about midway through
a state tour to gather comments to update a five-year plan dubbed the
"Roadmap to Florida's Future."
The plan's goals include expanding foreign trade and
investment, attracting high-paying corporate jobs and making the state
of center of innovation and entrepreneurship.
James Thorner can be reached at 813 226-3313 or email@example.com.
[Last modified July 12, 2006, 01:11:39]
original URL: http://www.sptimes.com/2006/07/12/Business/Leaders_hone_strategi.shtml